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The Verbier Festival - 10th Anniversary Piano Extravaganza
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Concerto for Four Keyboards and Strings in A minor, BWV1065
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) arr. Patrick Russ
Jamaican Rumba
Louis Moreau GOTTSCHALK (1829-1869) arr. Samuel Adler/Martin Russ
L’Union: paraphrase de concert sur les airs nationaux
Morton GOULD (1913-1996) arr. Michael Rot
The Stars and Stripes Forever Suite; after John Philip SOUSA
Peter HEIDRICH (b.1935)

Variations on `Happy Birthday' (excerpts)
Happy Birthday to You
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Two Pianos in C, K521
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the bumblebee
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) arr. Carl Czerny/Rico Gulda
Semiramide — Overture
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Sonata in one movement in E minor
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) arr. Richard Blackford
Die Walküre — Ride of the Valkyries
Leif Ove Andsnes, Nicholas Angelich, Martha Argerich, Emanuel Ax, Claude Frank, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, James Levine, Mikhail Pletnev, Staffan Scheja (piano) with Barbara Hendricks (sop)
Birthday Festival Orchestra
recorded live July 22, 2003
Video director: Andy Sommer
format 16:9; sound PCM stereo, 5.1 and DTS 5.1
BMG-RCA RED SEAL DVD 82876 60942-9 [100:00]



Verbier is 1500m above sea level and is in the Vol de Bages not far from the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in south-central Switzerland which seems a strange place to hold a musical festival. But the Verbier festival is now in its second decade and attracts an astonishing array of many of the world’s most famous musicians who play together, have fun, run master-classes and help teach a new generation of musicians. This DVD records the 10th anniversary celebration on July 22, 2003. As this coincided with the 150th anniversary of Steinway and Sons, they provided eight of their grand pianos as part of the celebration.

Possibly never before have so many famous musicians collaborated in one concert as the above list of artists illustrates. Even this list does not tell the full story as the “Birthday Festival Orchestra” includes such famous musicians as Kremer, Repin, Tetzlaff and others. The concert started with Argerich and Kissin playing the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos, a mature Mozart piece of considerable beauty. Smetana’s Sonata in one movement for two pianos and eight hands is a rarity, which is really interesting, tuneful and at times complex; it sounds quite percussive and modern in places. Extracts of the Happy Birthday Variations by Heidrich follow; this comprised variations in the style of Haydn, Beethoven, a Tango and Czardas and was played with style by the orchestra.

The Bach concerto for four pianos is another fascinating rarity – contrapuntal and very complex at times but with a haunting slow movement and a rousing finale.

The rest of the concert is a grand bash with eight pianists playing eight excellent pianos. With such forces, playing together at all is almost impossible, but with pianists of this calibre the result is amazingly good - providing that you don’t expect subtlety and exact precision. The artists seem to be enjoying themselves and it is really good fun. As you would perhaps expect the Gottschalk “Union” arrangement was probably the most suitable for this treatment. The Rossini is quite a subtle piece and showed the strain of the octet treatment the most. All most enjoyable – and finally Barbara Hendricks joined to conclude the Concert with Happy Birthday.

Throughout the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves as was the audience and the atmosphere is caught very well on this DVD.

Arthur Baker







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